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SF Giants: Reliever Tony Watson’s strong stretch in return

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Tony Watson #56 of the SF Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on September 26, 2020. The Giants reacquired Watson in a trade at the MLB trade deadline with the Los Angeles Angels that send pitcher Jose Marte and two others to the Angels. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Tony Watson #56 of the SF Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on September 26, 2020. The Giants reacquired Watson in a trade at the MLB trade deadline with the Los Angeles Angels that send pitcher Jose Marte and two others to the Angels. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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SF Giants
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Tony Watson #56 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on September 26, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

As the MLB trade deadline was about to expire, the SF Giants swung a big move in acquiring Kris Bryant but made a smaller move as well by bringing back veteran reliever Tony Watson. The latter was not a move that received a lot of attention, but the early returns are encouraging.

SF Giants: Reliever Tony Watson’s strong stretch in return

When the Giants traded for Watson, he was in the midst of a tough 2021 campaign in which he posted a 4.64 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 1.18 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, and a 1.79 SO/W ratio across 33 frames with the Los Angeles Angels. The subpar command is, perhaps, the most surprising aspect of his tenure with the Angels given that he has thrived on a deceptive delivery and pinpoint command in his 11-year career.

Watson’s numbers did not look great but his performance was impacted by a couple of rough outings including a six-run appearance and a four-run appearance. Outside of these two games, he has been relatively consistent. However, bad outings are a part of the game.

So, the acquisition of the veteran reliever was not the most exciting move and it looked like one that was meant to bolster the bullpen’s depth. Watson was not one of the top arms on the market and he joined a relief core that already had three left-handed relievers in Jake McGeeJarlin García, and  José Álvarez.

That said, Watson returned with a pretty sizable spike in his velocity. In 2020, the left-handed hurler’s fastball averaged just below 90 MPH for the first time in his career. However, his fastball has sat comfortably at 92.1 MPH in 2021 and reached as high as 95 MPH with the Giants in his brief showing so far.

Evidently, the increase in velocity is one of the main reasons that the Giants decided to bring back the southpaw as Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. With the added velocity, Watson has been superb following the trade back to San Francisco. In 4.1 scoreless innings, he has recorded five strikeouts while allowing just one hit and no walks.

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It is a very small sample, but he looks like the lefty we saw much earlier in his career when he was one of the better relievers in baseball. There is a long way to go before the end of the season and Watson has quickly re-established himself as a leverage reliever in Gabe Kapler’s bullpen. The starting rotation might have some question marks down the stretch but a strong bullpen can help in alleviating those concerns.

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